OPINION: Does Facebook hate dykes?
Jane Fae on the social media giant's problem with lesbians.
Facebook has long had a less than happy relationship with its women. And now it seems, it is getting hot under the collar about lesbians. And not in a good way.
To be fair, it has always had a problem with women who fail to be accommodating or be pinned, like so many exotic butterflies, by the neat and tidy laddish vision of their sex.
So Playboy, showcase for female health and fitness, boasts some 15 million Facebook followers: but dare to post an (icky) breastfeeding pic and face the wrath! A few years back, Facebook was staunchly defending the posting of “jokes” about rape and domestic violence. They relented – but they still host a page called Choking Prostitutes.
As for lesbians! (Not to mention dykes). In April, blog site Listening2lesbians posted how, to their dismay, they discovered that Facebook was actively blocking attempts to set up lesbian groups on its site. To test the water they tried to set up a group entitled “Nametestlesbian”, only to be informed that their proposed username contained words not allowed on Facebook.
This contrasts sharply to tests including “bi”, “gay” and “trans” that were allowed. As, at the time, was “dyke”. That, though, seems to have changed radically since June, with multiple reports of people being banned from Facebook for the appalling crime of using the d-word.
The first inkling that something new and dislikeable was up was when one user posted a pic of herself and her wife with the caption: “Suspended by @Facebook on Pride weekend, for posting this pic of me & my wife, with text saying "Dykes on Dyke Day!"
Then, in a twist that would have set surreal author Kafka spinning in his grave, they were re-suspended “for posting about the fact that I'd been suspended and the anti-dyke suspension had been removed”.
Since then, the bans have followed thick and fast with dozens, perhaps hundreds of individuals, removed for the utterly appalling crime of saying “dyke”. Some have wondered how Facebook would deal with any discussion of Fenland waterways and drainage (managed by dykes). And as for the southern Lincolnshire village of Dyke!
Be careful; what you wish for: one user has been blocked for typing “I LOVE DYKES” on their Facebook wall.
Another was banned for posting about a dyke band in a friends only post.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that a project with its origins in a “Hot or Not” game built by boy nerds from Harvard is less than sound on women and women's issues. In this case, there is some evidence, thanks to sterling work by Propublica and Listening2Lesbians that Facebook were trying to do something useful. Unfortunately, too clever plans, of mice and men alike, have a habit of going wrong.
This IS the 21st century, after all. Women are supposedly allowed to be many things, including messy, sexual, fierce, in love with one another: in fact, the whole gamut of things allowed to men.
Yet Facebook continue to constrain us to a space bounded approximately by apple pie motherhood, besuited workplace conformity and summer dress pretty womanity. Not so much progress as back, back back to the future.
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